When I was a freshman in college, I befriended a man who was homeless and spent each morning sitting nearby our dorm. Most people ignored him and tuned out his asking for food and money, but some friends and I wanted to help, so we introduced ourselves and asked him to tell us his story. It changed my life and my perspective on service and sacrifice, well before my brother became a U.S. Marine. Here is the poem I wrote about that Veteran almost 23 years ago:
Nowhere to go.
Nowhere to turn.
I’ve dropped out of school.
My left hand is burned.
My face remains unshaven.
My clothes are fastened by tape.
Since my pride has abandoned me
I can cling tighter now to my hate.
Down beats the wind.
Down beats the sunlight.
Down sinks my soul to the ground.
Down beat your stares.
Down close my eyelids.
Why doesn’t God help me now?
Desperate and shivering,
I stumble down the streets
begging every man, woman, and child
for something, anything to eat.
No one can hear me.
No one really cares.
I just wish I could tell the world my story
without being tranquilized by its glares.
My family has disowned me.
My kids don’t know who I am!
I just hope their mother told them the truth—
that I died in Vietnam.
There are countless Veterans who need and deserve our love and support; and there are many nonprofits locally and nationally working to help those who are struggling, like this man I met 23 years ago. This year, make it a priority to thank every Veteran you see out in public, who have given so much to our country; and find at least one nonprofit that you can support to help them along their way. Together, we can make sure this poem doesn’t happen again.
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